The Queer Issue
To prepare, I plucked, shaved, exfoliated, and moisturized myself within an inch of my life. It wasn't because I was vain. I fussed and primped because I am, like most straight women, more concerned about other women seeing me naked than I am about guys seeing me naked. We straight ladies seem to derive deep satisfaction from making our fellow "sisters" feel like lumpy, unattractive sacks of shit. At a lesbian bathhouse, of course, I thought I would encounter not only the usual female scrutiny but I might also get checked out like a piece of veal. Were lesbians going to hit on me? Did I look bloated? Did I have the right kind of nipples?
I stepped into the bath. Herbal steam wafted through the air. Women lounged around in twos and threes, chattering in low voices. With the exception of one grumpy dyke who glared disapprovingly at my neatly trimmed pubic hair, every other woman seemed friendly; everyone was courteous, uninhibited, and (yay!) very, very hairy. Girls were slouching around like overfed cats, confident and nonchalant: pot bellies, jiggly thighs, taut stomachs, wide hips, bulky calves--I saw every size and shape imaginable. But nothing was happening.
"This is a social space, but it's not intended as a pick-up joint," part-owner Julio LaFleur reassured me with an amused grin when I pressed her for Hot House dirt. "Sure, women meet other women here, and sometimes that [has resulted in] dating. But no one gets hit on here. It's just not a sex club, like men's bathhouses are."
I left Hot House feeling silly for thinking I was going to be mauled by sweaty dykes. I also left feeling ridiculous for having put my "beauty armor" on for nothing. But most importantly, I left feeling virtuous, blissful, and clean.
Min Liao is a heterosexual.